by Seo Dong-shin
May 28, 2007
On Sunday, Jeon Do-yeon became the first South Korean actress to garner the Best Actress Award at the 60th Cannes International Film Festival for her role in the Korean film ``Secret Sunshine,'' directed by Lee Chang-dong.
It was the second time for an Asian actress to win the award at the Festival. Chinese actress Maggie Cheung received the award in 2004 with ``Clean,'' French director Olivier Assayas' film about a woman rebuilding her life. Cheung served on this year's jury.
The prize also became another welcome recognition given to a Korean actress on the international level, 20 years after Kang Soo-yeon won the best actress award for her role in ``Sibaji,'' or ``The Surrogate Womb,'' at the Venice International Film Festival in 1987. Actress Mun So-ri won the Marcello Mastroianni Award as best newcomer in 2002 at Venice with her role in ``Oasis,'' another film directed by Lee.
Jeon was predicted to be a strong candidate since ``Secret Sunshine'' screened at the Riviera festival in France last week. The New York Times called her portrayal of the character Shin-ae a ``tour de force,'' while Variety.com praised her ``finely detailed performance.''
At home, Jeon has been continuously heaped with critics' praises as well as long-standing popularity. The 34-year-old looms large in the Korean cinema, known for her devotion to her character in each film.
Having started out as a model in a cosmetics commercial in 1990, Jeon starred in several popular TV drama series during the early 1990s, including ``General Hospital.'' It was the role of the heroine in the 1997 movie ``Contact'' that shot her to silver screen stardom.
After reaping newcomer awards with the film, she set out to explore diverse genres of films, ranging from the melodrama film ``A Promise'' in 1998, action drama ``No Blood No Tears'' in 2002 to historical drama ``Untold Scandal'' in 2003 and another melodrama ``You are My Sunshine!'' in 2005.
By the late 1990s, she was virtually dividing the local film industry and fan base into two with Shim Eun-ha, who was also a prominent actress at that time with films like ``Christmas in August'' and ``Art Museum by the Zoo.'' Shim retired after her marriage in October 2005. But Jeon continued to pursue her career, marrying a businessman in March this year.
The news of Jeon's win at Cannes put the entire nation as well as industry people into a celebratory mood.
President Roh Moo Hyun on Monday sent a congratulatory message to Jeon and the entire staff of ``Secret Sunshine'' for "showing once again the Korean movie's strength and potential." Roh also praised Jeon's passion and hard work resulting in the outstanding performance.
Minister of Culture and Tourism Kim Jong-min also called the staff in Cannes to deliver his congratulations. Recalling watching the ``Contact'' premier at the ministry 10 years ago, Kim said he knew Jeon would achieve a feat some day for her outstanding performance. The minister also thanked director Lee for ``doing great work at a difficult time for Korean cinema.''
The celebratory mood also caught on with people in the city of Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, where some 90 percent of ``Secret Sunshine'' was filmed. ``Miryang'' literally means ``Secret Sunshine.''
``It's a great pleasure and honor for our city,'' Um Yong-su, mayor of the city, was quoted as saying by Yonhap News. ``I'm grateful for the production staff for letting the name of our small city become known across the world.''
The city plans to preserve the film location spots and use them to boost tourism, he said.
``Residents all welcome the news and are delighted,'' Lee Bong-dae, village headman of Gagok-dong, the primary backdrop for the movie, was also quoted as saying. ``We hope foreigners as well as people from other regions will feel curious about this place and come visit.''
Film industry also expressed hopes of a windfall.
According to Cinema Service, which released ``Secret Sunshine'' locally on May 23, about 400,000 have watched the film up until May 27.
``While it's not satisfactory, it has fared well against the craze involving the `Pirates of the Caribbean 3,''' an official from the company said.
Lee, Jeon and actor Song Gang-ho, who also starred in the film, will hold a press conference on May 30 upon returning to Seoul. They will also embark on a nationwide promotion of the film.
The prospects look bright, considering the rate of online ticket reservations soared immediately after the news of Jeon's award spread. As of Monday morning, ``Secret Sunshine'' ranked on top of the list along with the ``Pirates,'' taking 32.4 percent of the ticket reservation share.
Officials at CJ Entertainment, which is in charge of distributing the film overseas, also appeared upbeat. Negotiations are underway with companies in Japan, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Italy and Germany, according to the company.
(courtesy of KoreaTimes)